Monday, April 02, 2007


Today is indeed the 202nd birthday of the amazing writer Hans Christian Andersen. I have always loved his stories from my earliest childhood and always wanted to write some kind of grand story that would take stories like "The Traveling Companion" and "The Snow Queen" and "The Wild Swans" to bigger and better places. Now Tim Doran and I are trying to do that for a musical version of "The Traveling Companion". It's hard and that's because this simple story can be very complex. It involves so many wonderful elements to be sure. So now Tim and I have to rein it in and not be so linear with its content. The original story of course doesn't even define the Warlock (in the story he is called "The Evil Magician") and it doesn't make us want to pull for the princess, either because we really don't learn that much about her in the original story. One thing for sure is that the man who wrote all these wonderful stories was a very complex man. He was NOT the character that Frank Loeser wrote about in the Samuel Goldwyn musical movie "Hans Christian Andersen" If you listen to Danny Kaye sing the lyrics to that Frank Loeser song one must forget the real man. He was NOT the man you hear in this lyric and song Click here: I’m Hans Christian Andersen ? Oh No-- Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark on Tuesday, April 2, 1805.Andersen's father (who was a very good looking cobbler) apparently believed that Hans might be related to nobility. However, investigation proves these stories unfounded. Nevertheless, the theory that Andersen was the illegitimate son of royalty persists in Denmark, bolstered by the fact that the Danish King took a personal interest in Andersen as a youth and paid for his education. The writer Rolf Dorset insists that not all options have been explored in determining Andersen's heritage.Andersen displayed great intelligence and imagination as a young boy, a trait fostered by the indulgence of his parents and by the superstition of his mother. He made himself a small toy-theatre and sat at home making clothes for his puppets, and reading all the plays that he could lay his hands upon; among them were those of Ludvig Holberg and William Shakespeare. Throughout his childhood, he had a passionate love for literature. He was known to memorize entire plays by Shakespeare and to recite them using his wooden dolls as actors. He was also a great lover of the art of banter, and assisted in initiating a society of like minded banterers amongst his friends.In 1816, 9at age eleven) his father died and the young boy had to start earning a living. He worked as an apprentice for both a weaver and a tailor, and later worked in a cigarette factory where his fellow workers humiliated him by betting on whether he was in fact a girl, pulling down his trousers to check. At the age of fourteen, Andersen moved to Copenhagen seeking employment as an actor in the theatre . He had a pleasant soprano voice and succeeded in being admitted to the Royal Danish Theatre. This career stopped short when his voice broke. A colleague at the theatre had referred to him as a poet, and Andersen took this very seriously and began to focus on writing. Following an accidental meeting, Jonas Collin started taking an interest in the odd boy and sent Andersen to the grammar school paying all his expenses. Before even being admitted to grammar-school, Andersen had already succeeded in publishing his first story, The Ghost at Palnatoke's Grave in (1822). Though a backward (perhaps learning-disabled and unwilling pupil, Andersen studied both in Slagelse and at a school in Elsinore until 1827. He later stated that these years had been the darkest and most bitter parts of his life. He had experienced living in his schoolmaster's own home, being abused in order to "build his character", and he had been the odd man out among his fellow students, being much older than most of them, homely and unattractive. Furthermore, he was dyslexic , a very likely reason for his learning difficulties and he later said that the school faculty forbade or discouraged him to write. The feeling of "being different", usually resulting in pain, is a recurrent motif in his work. This is both attributed to his early life in poverty, his homeliness and in particular to his lack of romantic and sexual life. In the spring of 1872, Andersen fell out of bed and severely hurt himself. He never quite recovered, but he lived until August 4 , 1875, dying very peacefully in a house called Rolighed near Copenhagen, which was given to him by his friend Moritz Melchior, a banker Shortly before his death, he had consulted a composer about the music for his funeral, saying: 'Most of the people who will walk after me will be children, so make the beat keep time with little steps. Now Tim and I must take our own measured steps to make this musical happen. I think Mr. Andersen would like it.

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